Monday, August 22, 2005

Time To Let Go- My Obsession with Food

Since an early age, I have been obsessed with my weight. Between comments made from adults about my big-boned, muscular body being too large, and a lack of dates in junior high and high school, I have never felt attractive or thin. This has permeated into my consciousness with a vengeance, and now my obsession with my weight has mutated into an obsession with food.

I feel sorry for my husband Jim, because every time we make plans to travel or go out, our conversation must center around food. Are we going to eat before we go? Is there someplace close we can eat at afterwards? Is there going to be food I like and can eat there? It must be a nightmare for Jim, but he tries to be patient and let me go through the ritual.

I think part of this obsession is weight-based, and part of it is based on my upbringing. I was raised on a farm, and there was a lot of uncertainty as to when I would be able to eat a meal. As someone who used to burn a lot of calories bucking hay and filling grain sacks, it was a very important issue. I would get so hungry that my head would pound until I could get some nutrition. Even though this is no longer an issue since I have a desk job, the obsessive thoughts continue.

Let me say for the record that I never did starve, and that my mother is a wonderful cook. It wasn’t a question of not eating; it was a question of WHEN. Sometimes, out in the fields trying to harvest a crop, we would be battling the elements and imminent rain, so food had to come a distant second to work. For whatever reason, that would panic me, and to this day, it is still a huge issue.

The end result of my obsession with food is that I spend way too much time considering what to eat and when. I also eat too much when I am nervous, a condition I associate with trying to carb load when I wasn’t sure when the next window for eating would come. To that end, when I get to work in the morning, I have a small bag of dry Cheerios to snack on and I ingest a protein bar between 9:30 and 10 a.m. without fail. This I have under control. My problem comes when I have meetings or unplanned circumstances that make me late for lunch. If I eat on time I will eat a normal amount of food and be full all afternoon. If for whatever reason I eat later, I gorge and eat WELL OVER the amount required to fill me up. My boss tries to be sympathetic, but sixteen years into our working relationship, still has no idea how to deal with me about this issue.

Another problem my obsession with food brings is that it makes me have a small window for working out. If I don’t work out at my lunchtime, I have one hour between 5 and 6 p.m. to get my cardio done. Then I pick up my husband from work and must go home and eat. If we eat too late, I over indulge and feel sick. If we are on schedule, it is all fine.

The weekends aren’t nearly so bad. I like to get up and have a bowl of cereal. Then I like to go workout, grocery shop, and come home and eat something light. If anything or anyone interferes with my plans, that is another thing altogether. A couple of weekends ago, my poor husband made an assumption about my hunger level, and paid for it in a complete meltdown courtesy of me. Poor guy, I still feel guilty about it today. But for the most part, the weekends are a breeze.

What is the point of this confession, you might ask? It really comes down to this- I will never be happy until I can either let go of my obsession or admit to it and make a structured plan for myself, similar to what I had when I was on my “Get In Shape” contest diet. For the short term, I am better off to preplan, but in the long term, I have to let it go.

I have always joked that if I didn’t work out, I would weigh 300 pounds. Mind you, I have never gotten close to that heavy, but it almost isn’t funny anymore. As I get older, and it is harder to keep the pounds off, it is “put up or shut up” time for me and my weird idiosyncrasies.

My new goal in life is to not obsess so much and make healthy choices when I do eat. I can’t let stress or other people’s opinions rule my life, especially since some of those opinions are at least twenty years old. I also have to be happy with myself, and tell people who have unhealthy opinions to piss off and worry about their own health. I am sure my husband would be much happier as well, considering he has always loved me for the person I am, not the person he wants me to be.

As I approach 40, things have to change. It has to quit being about food and weight and be completely about health. Cross your fingers for me that I can make the transition. I will be healthier and happier, and my husband will be less stressed and happier as well. It is time to quit obsessing and start living.

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